Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
Joseph Johnson’s “Traditions and Reminiscences 0f the American Revolution in South Carolina” (1851) wrote of the depredations of pro-British (Tory) raider Daniel McGirth of the Kershaw District of South Carolina.
At first, McGirth was opposed to British rule. "He was highly valuable to the Americans.” Unfortunately, McGirth’s horse was coveted by “An American officer at St. Ilia, in Georgia” (now known as Satilla).
Refusing to give his horse up, the officer had him “arrested, tried by a court-martial, found guilty…whipped (and) again placed in prison.” McGirth not only broke free but managed to also free his horse.
As he escaped, McGirth yelled out loudly that he would enact “vengeance against all the Americans for his ill treatment…Indulging this savage, vindictive temper, (McGirth) was indeed productive of great injury to the American cause.”
The book, “Historic Camden,” (1905), reports that McGirth was soon given the rank of Colonel in the Tory (pro-British) Florida Rangers, and was attached (loosely) to the British Army forces commanded by Major General Augustine Prevost.
An article in the “South Carolina Gazette and Advertiser” of July 7, 1779 is warned that “A large body of the most infamous banditti and horse thieves that perhaps ever were collected together anywhere, (had been assembled by) McGirth.”
McGirth’s forces, the Gazette wrote, were composed of “A corps of Indians, with Negro and white savages disguised like them, and about 1,500 of the most savage disaffected poor people.” McGirth and his forces proceeded to ravage the southeast for several years.
According to many histories of the American Revolution, Bulloch County became one of the favorite playgrounds of this notorious Tory (pro-British) raider, Daniel McGirth.
When he was staying in Bulloch County, a local Tory sympathizer named Cargile was said to have harbored McGirth’s raiders and given them information about the American forces.
Cargile was advised that it meant his death if he was found to be harboring McGirth. Not long after, Bulloch Countian William Cone was hunting deer on the Ogeechee when he saw McGirth and Cargile together.
He shot and killed Cargile but McGirth once again escaped. Somewhat later, McGirth and his Tories attacked a Bulloch County settlement, stole their horses, and proceeded to take everything else they could carry.
A group of locals, led by none other than Captain Cone, took up pursuit. As it had been raining, the Bulloch County posse sent forward one of their men to search for tracks left by the raiders.
After Cone’s scout, hiding behind a log, shot and killed one of the Tories, Cone’s men then launched their attack, and drove the Tories into the Ohoopee River and beyond.
Cone’s men recovered the stolen goods. Most importantly, after this embarrassing rout, Lucien Lamar Knight wrote in his “Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends (1913), that “This raid ended the power of the Tories in this neighborhood."
In “Ramsay’s History of South Carolina,” (1858), author David Ramsay wrote that “Mr. Tonyn, governor of…East Florida, granted a commission to a horse-thief of the name of McGirtt, who…had for several years harassed the inhabitants of South Carolina and Georgia.”
Governor Tonyn’s support of McGirth came back to haunt him, for “After peace was proclaimed, he (McGirth) carried on the same practices against his former protectors in East Florida, until they were obliged, in self-defense, to raise the royal militia of the province to oppose him.”
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.